United States District Court, E.D. California
MARISOL VIVANCO, Individually and as Successor in Interest to SOLTON VIVANCO GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS & REHABILITATION, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 35)
BARBARA A. McAULIFFE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendants California Department of
Corrections (“CDCR”) and Scott Frauenheim's
(“Warden Frauenheim” and collectively
“Defendants”) motion for summary judgment
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 filed on March
1, 2019. (Doc. No. 35.) Plaintiff Marisol Vivanco,
Individually and as Successor in Interest to Solton Vivanco
Gonzalez, (“Plaintiff”) filed her opposition on
April 12, 2019. (Doc. No. 36.) Defendants filed a reply on
April 26, 2019. (Doc. No. 43.)
7, 2019, a hearing on the motion was held before the
Honorable Barbara A. McAuliffe, United States Magistrate
Judge. Counsel Jesse Ortiz appeared by telephone
on behalf of Plaintiff. Counsel Preeti Bajwa and Yevgeniy
Parkman appeared in person on behalf of Defendants. (Doc. No.
45.) Having considered the record and the parties'
briefing and oral arguments, the Court grants Defendants'
motion for summary judgment.
action concerns Plaintiff's claims related to the death
of her son, decedent Solton Vivanco Gonzalez (“Mr.
Gonzalez”), who committed suicide by hanging while he
was incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison
(“PVSP”) and in the custody of CDCR.
(See Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff originally filed her
complaint on December 20, 2016, in the Superior Court of
California for the County of Fresno, asserting claims against
CDCR, Warden Frauenheim, and Does 1-50 for violations of the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and for wrongful death under and California Code of
Civil Procedure § 377.60. (Doc. No. 1 at Ex. A.)
Defendants removed the action to this Court on March 23,
2017. (Doc. No. 1.) Following the Court's orders on two
motions to dismiss filed by Defendants, the action proceeded
on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference
and failure to supervise claims, Plaintiff's Fourteenth
Amendment substantive due process claims against Warden
Frauenheim in his individual capacity and various Doe
defendants, and Plaintiff's state law claim for wrongful
death against CDCR and various Doe defendants. (Doc. Nos. 2,
4, 9, 11, 21.)
operative complaint alleged that PVSP staff ridiculed and
mistreated Mr. Gonzalez, a mentally ill inmate, while he was
housed in a short-term restricted housing unit, failed to
adequately monitor his welfare, did not intervene when
observing Mr. Gonzalez braiding his sheet shortly before he
hung himself, did not provide him with psychiatric
medication, and laughed at his suicidal ideations. (Doc. No.
11 at ¶¶ 17-34.) Plaintiff further alleged that
Warden Frauenheim failed to implement policies regarding the
placement of mentally ill inmates in short-term restricted
housing as required by Coleman v. Newsom, No.
(Id. at ¶¶ 35-39.)
UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS
otherwise noted, the facts set forth below are
uncontroverted.As necessary, the Court discusses further
factual details in its analysis. The parties' legal
conclusions, arguments, and assertions are not considered
August 29, 2014, the Court in Coleman issued an
order authorizing mentally ill inmates to be housed in
short-term restricted housing units. (SUF No. 1.) As a result
of Coleman, PVSP implemented policies and procedures
regulating the placement and retention of mentally ill
inmates in short-term restricted housing units. (SUF Nos. 2,
Gonzalez, an inmate in the custody of CDCR, was receiving
mental health services for depression while incarcerated at
PVSP and reported that he first began taking medication for
depression at age sixteen. (Decl. of Jesse Ortiz, Ex. A at
¶ 364-369, 373, 407, 413-428.) A mental health
evaluation dated June 18, 2015, performed while Mr. Gonzalez
was housed at Deuel Vocational Institute prior to being
transferred to PVSP, noted that Mr. Gonzalez reported a
“history of sleep challenges and depression without
medication.” (Id. at AG 404-414.) A suicide
risk evaluation dated September 28, 2015, indicated that Mr.
Gonzalez had a history of chronic mental illness and suicide
attempts in which he drank bleach in 2012 and attempted to
jump in front of a truck in 2014. (Id. at AG
Gonzalez was moved to the short-term restricted housing unit
on January 8, 2016, based on an indecent exposure allegation.
(SUF No. 3.) On January 14, 2016, Warden Frauenheim chaired a
classification committee, which included CDCR psychologists
Drs. Lee and Dehnavifar, and which was tasked with
determining Mr. Gonzalez' continued retention in the
short-term restricted housing unit. (SUF No. 5.) Drs. Lee and
Dehnavifar evaluated Mr. Gonzalez' mental health before
this committee hearing and determined that retaining him in
the short-term restricted housing unit did not place him at
substantial risk of serious harm. (SUF No. 6.) Based on these
evaluations and opinions, the committee voted to retain Mr.
Gonzalez in the short-term restricted housing unit. (SUF No.
January 13, 2016, while housed in the short-term restricted
housing unit in PVSP, Mr. Gonzalez met with CDCR mental
health staff and “asked about taking psych meds.”
(Decl. of Jesse Ortiz, Ex. A at ¶ 426.) Mr. Gonzalez
received mental health services from Dr. Lee but stated
during his session that “he would be fine without
[medications] for the time being” and was not
prescribed any psychiatric medications. On January 19, 2016,
Mr. Gonzalez reported some increase in his depression since
being placed in short-term restricted housing. (Id.
at AG 421.) On January 20, 2016, CDCR psychiatrist Dr. Kuo
discussed psychiatric medications with Mr. Gonzalez and noted
that he was “[r]elatively stable” without them.
(Id. at AG420.) The same day, CDCR staff described
Mr. Gonzalez' status as being managed well, and Mr.
Gonzalez further reported feeling better without medication.
(Id.at AG 355.) Mr. Gonzalez denied experiencing any
significant mental health concerns or symptoms and stated he
felt he was adjusting well to short-term restricted housing.
performed a cell front check on Mr. Gonzalez at 1:00 p.m. on
January 26, 2016. (Decl. of Jesse Ortiz, Ex. A at ¶
415.) Mr. Gonzalez reported feeling depressed and that he
likely would not go to group therapy and further expressed
interest in medication. (Id.) Mr. Gonzalez appeared
to be experiencing increased depressive symptoms, was
sleeping at odd hours, and had stopped coming out of his cell
for therapy sessions. (Id.) Dr. Lee's notes
further indicate that Mr. Gonzalez was not prescribed
medication at that time but agreed to meet out of cell to
discuss medication options the following week. (Id.)
Mr. Gonzalez denied any other significant mental health
concerns or symptoms and “did not exhibit sign[s] of
any thoughts or behaviors related to harming [him]self or
others” at the time he and Dr. Lee met. (Id.)
Mr. Gonzalez was described as being cooperative, made good
eye contact, responded willingly and appropriately to
questions, was alert, oriented, and smiled at appropriate
times, his emotional presentation was congruent with context
and theme, he exhibited good concentration skills, and gave
no signs of delusional activity, ideas of reference, or
Gonzalez was found hanging in his cell at approximately 7:35
p.m. on January 27, 2016. (Decl. of Jesse Ortiz, Ex. A at
¶ 190-191.) He suffered anoxic brain injury as a result
of the hanging and died from his injuries on January 29,
judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, disclosure
materials, discovery, and any affidavits provided establish
that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one that
may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable law.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986). A dispute is genuine “if the evidence is
such that a reasonable [trier of fact] could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.” Id. Summary judgment
must be entered, “after adequate time for discovery and
upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317');">477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
party seeking summary judgment “always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. 3 at 323.
The exact nature of this responsibility, however, varies
depending on whether the issue on which summary judgment is
sought is one in which the movant or the nonmoving party
carries the ultimate burden of proof. See Soremekun v.
Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir.
2007). If the movant will have the burden of proof at trial,
it must “affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable
trier of fact could find other than for the moving
party.” Id. (citing Celotex, 477 U.S.
at 323). In contrast, if the nonmoving party will have the
burden of proof at trial, “the movant can prevail
merely by pointing out that there is an absence of evidence
to support the nonmoving party's case.”
movant satisfies its initial burden, the nonmoving party must
go beyond the allegations in its pleadings to “show a
genuine issue of material fact by presenting affirmative
evidence from which a jury could find in [its]
favor.” FTC v. Stefanchik, 559 F.3d 924, 929
(9th Cir. 2009) (emphasis in original). “[B]ald
assertions or a mere scintilla of evidence” will not
suffice in this regard. Id. at 929; see also
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (“When the moving
party has carried its burden under Rule 56, its opponent
must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts.”) (citation omitted).
“Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a
rational trier of ...